Joe Milton is Tennessee’s starting quarterback. After the Vols’ win against Bowling Green, head coach Josh Heupel assured the media that the staff is confident moving forward with Milton at the helm, despite the offense’s inconsistency.
Heupel named Milton the starter on Monday of this week, and the team also released the official depth chart for Bowling Green the same day. While Vol fans knew Milton would start, the staff left the backup quarterback officially undecided with neither Hendon Hooker or Harrison Bailey getting the second-string nod.
Week 1 Depth Chart.— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) August 30, 2021
Game notes » https://t.co/YLMg0r4cWL pic.twitter.com/RrHcydARzC
But late in the game, with the contest’s outcome all but officially decided, Tennessee fans found out that the backup was Hooker as he came in once the Vols pulled their starters.
Hooker played just the one drive at the end of the game, a total of seven snaps, and completed the lone pass he threw for a five-yard gain.
One drive at the end of a non-conference, season opener is hardly enough evidence to make any sort of definitive declaration about who will or won’t be Tennessee’s backup this season. Heupel could have gone with Hooker there for any number of reasons. Maybe it was just part of the game plan. Maybe Heupel doesn’t think Bailey’s ready, for whatever reason.
With the new one-time transfer rule in place, it makes sense for players to want to try their luck elsewhere if they aren’t getting the shot they think the deserve. This trend is especially prevalent with highly-rated quarterback recruits. A few studies have been done on this topic, and they’ve all come back with similar results: around 50 percent (if not more) of 4-and-5-star high-school quarterbacks end up transferring at least once in their college careers. The results naturally vary. It’s working out for former-Trojan, now Georgia QB JT Daniels, while Tate Martell has transferred his way into oblivion.
Something else worth noting — Tennessee has played at least three quarterbacks in five of the last 10 seasons. So, while right now, the grass may seem greener for Bailey elsewhere, recent history says he may still end up getting his shot to start some games.